In a first for the social media colossus still stinging from scrutiny over its role in the 2016 election, Facebook has been rolling out a plan to send reminders to its users that they can cast their ballots before Election Day on Nov. 6 in every state that offers early voting.
The reminder was to appear on Maryland residents’ Facebook pages on Thursday, the first day of an early voting period that runs through Nov. 1, according to state election administrator Linda H. Lamone.
An official with Facebook confirmed that this will be the first time the company has sent reminders about early voting. It started in certain states on Wednesday.
Starting in July, Maryland will be among the first states in the country to regulate political ads on Facebook under a law Gov. Larry Hogan will let take effect without his signature. Hogan announced Friday he would not sign it because of First Amendment concerns raised by the region's newspapers.
“This is the first election where Facebook has run an early voting reminder, and we’re doing it in every state that has early voting,” wrote the official, who was not authorized to be identified, in an email to The Baltimore Sun.
In an email sent Tuesday to Maryland election officials and obtained by The Sun, a political and government outreach official with Facebook wrote that “the reminder will read ‘Early Voting Has Started’ and it will give people the opportunity to share they have voted.”
Facebook has faced scrutiny over how the platform, which has more than 2 billion active monthly users, was manipulated during the 2016 election. Data from millions of users were leaked to digital consultants who used it to help Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. And Russian individuals and organizations have been accused of using Facebook and other social media platforms to meddle in the election.
In July, Maryland became the first state to regulate political ads on Facebook and other social media sites. Facebook officials have called the law a “national model” and urged other states to approve the same measure.
The bill that would require Facebook. Google Ads, Twitter and other social media companies to track political ads and keep records about whom they target. The day after it passed, Facebook announced a it would enact a similar policy nationwide.
State election officials say they don’t mind the help in spreading the word about early voting. During early voting, designated polling sites throughout Maryland will be open each day, including Saturday and Sunday.
“It’s always good for organizations to promote turnout — whether it’s Facebook or the League of Women Voters,” said deputy election administrator Nikki Charlson. “We’re all for that.”